World Food Issues: Let's Veg Out

VEGETARIANISM AND WORLD HUNGER

 

This report focuses on the benefits of being a vegetarian and how it could in turn help the status of hungry, malnourished people, and positively impact the entire world.

People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons. Some people are protesting the harsh treatment of animals, some people want to help the environment, and some people are focused on the health benefits. Despite all ethical arguments, being a vegetarian and eating a more plant-based diet is better for your health. Well-balanced vegetarian diets are beneficial for all stages of the life cycle (Leitzmann, 2005). This means people in all stages of life; including children, mothers, and the elderly can live healthy, nutritious lives from a well-balanced vegetarian diet in any location or lifestyle. The idea of the “Western Diet” focused heavily on meats, saturated fats, and processed foods leads to diseases like cancer, high cholesterol, and diabetes and needs to be stopped. It sets a bad example for the rest of the world and can easily be combated by consuming a more plant-based, nutritious diet. Vegetarian diets also combat diseases like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, renal disease and dementia, as well as diverticular disease, gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis (Leitzmann, 2005).

These health benefits can also be used to alleviate malnutrition on developing countries (Seidle, 2000). It has been shown that consuming meat is an inefficient way to obtain calories compared to the direct consumption of grains that are put into the process of meat production (Seidle, 2000). Developing countries would benefit an incredible amount if the land they were using to produce grains used for meat production were instead used to feed their hungry people. Their health would benefit and their hunger rates would decrease.

A large majority of the grain produced in developing countries goes towards producing livestock for consumption in wealthy nations. This cattle production is harming our environment and increasing carbon emissions contributing to global warming and the decline of our planet. For example, there are approximately 1.28 billion cattle on the earth that consume enough grain to feed hundreds of millions of people in developing nations (Lewis, 1994). People in developing nations suffering from malnutrition and no food security could live healthier and happier lives if they stopped exporting all of their grain to wealthier nations and cattle production. Livestock occupies almost 24% of the earth’s landmass and they are destroying our ecosystems (Lewis, 1994). Rain forests are being cut down and destroyed to make room for livestock production; healthy cropland and natural environments all over the world are being destroyed to create land for cattle to graze (Lewis, 1994).  The depletion of all of our natural ecosystems and healthy land is in turn killing animals and driving species into extinction. Water sources are also being depleted in order to irrigate crops to feed all of these cattle, and the cattle production itself is polluting water supplies and emitting harmful carbon emissions. All of this cattle, and graze land for the cattle, is horrible for our environment, for our health, and it needs to stop.

It is morally wrong to put all of these resources towards livestock production when it leaves our planet in distress and forces our planets impoverished people into hungry, unhealthy lifestyles.

The utilitarianism theory states that we need to do what’s best for the greatest amount of people, and that is not what we are doing. All of the money and work put towards livestock production harms the environment and leaves millions of people hungry and malnourished. These people are forced to suffer when the food they are producing for cattle could easily feed them. People have the right to food and possibilities and livestock production takes that away. Wealthy nations are exploiting developing nations in order to benefit their wants for meat when it would be healthier for them to eat less meat anyway. The categorical imperative states that people should not be treated as means to an end and exploitation is wrong, and that is all prevalent in livestock production. Overall, we need to put our resources to feeling people, not cows.

As previously stated, a large portion of the food and grain produced in developing nations is being exported for livestock production, instead of being used to feed the hungry and benefit the impoverished people in developing countries that are actually producing the food and in desperate need of nutrition and food security. Another place this precious grain is being exported to is biofuels. The rapid increase in demand for biofuels, like ethanol that comes from maize and sugarcane, has created an increase in demand for these crops to be produced and has caused prices to rise on all grains (Rosegrant, 2008). All of these crops and resources are going towards biofuel production and the benefits don’t outweigh the negatives. Even though it is supposedly a green alternative to fossil fuels, it still requires fossil fuels in production and transportation of grains and still contributes to millions of people going hungry.  The environment is still suffering.

Across the globe, meat is seen as a delicacy that only the wealthy can afford. This point of view is actually harming our entire population. Wealthy people eat meat even though a vegetarian, plant-based diet would be better for their health, because their economic standing can afford it. People in wealthy nations have easy access to meat and animal byproducts and are therefore more commonly unhealthy.

This perspective on meat being a delicacy and reserved for wealthy people actually harms people in poverty as well. As soon as people in developing countries get access to more money or slightly increase their economic standing, they spend their money on meat and change their diets to the unhealthy, western alternative. These people are usually uneducated on the negative health effects of meat heavy diets and processed foods and are then forced to suffer health problems and diseases like diabetes. I think people in wealthy nations should live healthier, vegetarian lives and set good examples for the rest of the world. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you should spend it on unhealthy, expensive food choices that are harming the world. People should practice beneficence and do good things for the world and help others so everyone has a chance at food fairness and happy, nutritious lives.

In conclusion, vegetarianism is better for personal health, the health of the environment, and will help combat world hunger. Eating meat leads to and unhealthy lifestyle and contributes to diseases. Switching to a well balanced, vegetarian diet lessens the likelihood of those diseases without limiting vitamins or nutrients. It’s easier to obtain good caloric intake and nutrients from the grain that feeds the cattle than by consuming the cattle itself. It is also easier to feed the millions of people in developing nations that are food insecure and malnourished by using the grain the grain produced for livestock production and biofuels to instead feed them. There is enough food in the world to feed the Earth’s population, we just have to distribute it correctly and put it towards the correct things. The obscene amount of land that has been converted from rain forests and other healthy ecosystems to open grazing land for livestock is harming our environment and contributing to species extinction and land degradation. We need to stop eating meat to save our selves, help our planet, and feed the hungry.

 

 

Works Cited

Leitzmann, Claus. "Vegetarian Diets: What Are the Advantages?" Forum of Nutrition Diet Diversification and Health Promotion (2005): 147-56.

Lewis, Stephen. "An Opinion on the Global Impact of Meat Consumption." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 59.5 (1994): n. pag. ProQuest. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://search.proquest.com/openview/20a1df93c98191e728eeeae39d619aa9/1?pq-origsite=gscholar>.

Rosegrant, Mark W. "Biofuels and Grain Prices: Impacts and Policy Responses." International Food Policy Research Institute(2008): 1-2. <http://www.grid.unep.ch/FP2011/step1/pdf/004_Rosegrant_2008.pdf>.

Seidl, Andrew. "Economic Issues and the Diet and the Distribution of Environmental Impact." Ecological Economics 34.1 (2000): 5-8.